Shadowdale was very famous for being such a small and sleepy town. Many older adventurers retired to the place. Elminster, one of the most powerful of the mages of the Realms, made his home there. And the Old Skull Inn was renowned the world over. This is where we came, and this was one of the places from my reading I most wanted to see. We were traveling north along the Northride, we had just crossed the Ashenford, and as we came out of the wood I saw the Old Skull looming ahead. My heart quickened as we approached and small homes and farmsteads began to appear around us. It was an excitement I hadnt known before.
The Old Skull in wasnt quite as I had expected it. From all the books I had read and from the accounts I had heard from other adventurers I had expected so massive, wonderous place just brimming with strong handsome heroes and maidens as beautiful as they were deadly. What stood in front of me was hardly different from any other inn I had seen on the journey here. It was made of wood and stone just like any other place. The people inside were simple farmers, the locals, no different or more important than my companions and I. While I was suprised by all that it was certainly a powerful experience just being in there. Eshrin bought us rooms, two rooms to be exact. Eshrin, Nolan, and Tralin would stay in one room and Maeve, Rhia, and I in the other. I would be taking the night in the Old Skull Inn! I spent the afternoon and evening exploring Shadowdale. It certainly was a small sleepy town despite the drow and Zhentarim incursions. Looking around the place I could almost believe that the place I had read about was some other place, mislabeled and misplaced on the map. After finally having seen the tower of Elminster I returned to the inn. There was quite a bit of storytelling and revelry going on in the common room but I didnt participate this time, I was tired from the road and overwhelmed with simply being there. So I turned in for the night.
I took an early breakfast the following morning and enjoyed the cool brisk morning air. Today we would learn everything we needed to know to see our mission through. I was looking forward to it but at the same time I was a bit apprehensive, a task this important seemed so far beyond the abilities of our group, we only just made the trek from Waterdeep to Shadowdale, how could we hope to travel the width and breadth of Faerun? I was the first to arrive at the meeting room. It was a large rectangular room with dark stone walls and a darkly laquered wooden floor. In the center was a very long beautiful oak table and off to one side a fireplace with a crackling flame already dancing in it. I sat facing opposite the fire so I could watch it. I dont know how long I sat waiting but eventually the others began trickling in. As soon all six of us and three others, two men and one woman had arrived the meeting began.
In years past, well beyond the memories of the oldest elves or wizards, and well beyond the memories of anyone alive save perhaps the most ancient of dragons, before humans wandered the world and the dwarves dug through it, at the height of the ancient elven empires, the Crown Wars raged across Faerun. Over three thousand years, the span of just five military contests, the powerful elven nations warred with each other. In the end the wars left the elves completely ravaged, death counts in numbers only the gods can count, the powerful nations in ruins, and some elves so twisted by evil they were chased into the dark places of the world, deep underground.
The Ilythiiri had fallen to the worship of Lolth, the Spider Queen, before the end, and had been driven underground. But also thier appearance had changed, thier flesh blackend and thier hair turned white, so that all would know them and what they had done and they would be shunned, they would one day come to be known as drow. They learned to despise thier surface kin with a burning hatred like no other. Sometime after thier fall a group of them determined to have thier vengeance, and have it soon. They set about studying powerful magics and began work on the weapon that would be the instrument of thier revenge. With the aid of thier demonic allies they fashioned an item that would return them all to the appearance that had been that of thier people before thier fall, so that they may travel amongst the surface elves with impunity, it had the power to lay waste to entire cities and to kill from great distances, but most importantly it was said that they would use this item to revenge themselves upon the gods themselves. There were other powers too but what they were exactly was lost to time. But to be sure it was an instrument of terrible and absolute power. On the eve of its completion one of thier own, a repentant drow, set upon his fellows and halted the activation of the item. He had sent word to the surface, and as he struggled for the item and his life, surface elf soldiers burst into the chamber. The drow were all killed, and the artifact seized, what became of the one heroic drow no one knew anymore. Upon inspection it was decided that the artifact could not be destroyed, and so was instead seperated into several pieces. Some were sent for safe keeping and some were placed in places thought to be beyond the reach or knowledge of the small few who knew of the event.
So the safe keeping of the known pieces had continued for millenia, eventually coming into the knowledge and care of the Harpers. Not a year past some keepers had failed to check in with the organization proper, and all attempts to contact then had failed. But only a small number, the others remained safe. It would be the task of our group to go to these places of safe keeping and discover the fate of the keepers. If the pieces had fallen into the hands of someone else we were to recover them, which sounded easy enough since it was so unlikely anyone who acquired them would know what they were. We were chosen for our relative obscurity compared to other members of the Harpers. I wasnt familiar with the places wed be traveling to but Eshrin knew the way. We would set out the following morning.
That evening I wandered the town again. It was crisp out but the cold had never bothered me much. The night was clear and the stars were bright in the sky. My breath puffed in small clouds from my mouth under the bright moonlight. I had been wandering around enjoying the night for some time when I began to feel as though I were being watched. I started to make my way back to the inn, I didnt know what whomever was following me may want but I had heard stories back home in Skullport of many people, including young women, when caught alone in the dark. I felt confident in my ability to defend myself but it wasnt worth the risk. I made my way slowly, not wanting to give away my suspicions of fright, but as I went I found myself more and more turned around. I new my way back to the inn, I hadnt traveled all that far and the towns layout was far from complicated. I started to become more and more paniced and it just served to get me more and more lost. Turning a corner I started as I came face to face with a dark man. With his dark black skin and his pointed ears I may have taken him for a drow if I didnt know better. I gasped when I saw his eyes, they glowed green. There was a foulness to him that was almost tangible. I felt terrified, and I wanted to run, but something made me stay. I took a step back and my hands reached down to my daggers. Again I became aware of how small and seemingly useless they were. The man grinned and I could see the yellowed fangs in his mouth. It was a truely chilling grin.
He spoke, but in no voice I could hear, instead I was simply aware of what he was saying, or maybe thinking. "Ah, my little demon. It is good to see you have finally left that quiant little temple." I began to back away, I didnt know who this person was or how he knew me and where I came from, yet there was a familiarity about him that I couldnt explain."Who are you?" He grinned again, "Dont you know?"
As I continued to back away I backed into another person. I twirled, daggers now fully in hand and saw a woman, naked from the waste up. She was quite beautiful, but the feral scowl on her face mede her unattractive. I gasped audibly when I saw she had three sets of arms and a quick glance down showed her lower half to be that of a snake. I knew what this creature was, I had read about demons in my studies. Instinctually I turned to run, and saw at least one other of the monsters off to the other side. Terror overtook me, I wouldnt live through that night I knew. I was trapped, with no where to run, a strange feeling came over than me, and even now I cant properly describe it. My vision flared red and my desire to run was overcome by a powerful desire to lunge at the creatures, to rip thier limbs from thier unnatural bodies, to strip that horrible grin from the mans despicable skull. My terror was gone, completely. I growled, or maybe screamed, Im not so sure which, and rushed at the man, at the same instant conjuring magical darkness between me and the demons. He laughed as I came at him, "Good! Soon, my Little Demon, soon, I will bring you fully into the fold." Just as my daggers would have struck him he was gone and I tumbled headlong into the ground. In a second I was back on my feet twirling, looking for my enemy.
My breath game in heavy puffs, the sound of blood rushing filled my ears, I could feel my heart pumping swiftly and powerfully. I almost missed the slight growling noise behind me, and noticing it I dived forwrd, tumbling and twirling as I came to my feet. Before me stood a terrible creature. It was shorter than I was by more than a head, above its short, frail looking legs was a big bulbous belly. Long arms reached to the ground ending in very large hands, whose knuckles supported the creatures weight like an ape. Its back was hunched and its face had a squashed appearance to it, and long pointed ears. The creature growled and lunged towards me leading with its claws. I managed to dodge past its attack and strike with my one of my daggers. As I felt the blade slice through the things flesh shivers ran all over me. The fury from before hadnt past and I laughed manically as warm blood spurted onto my face. I continued to slash over and over at the beast, I was inside its reach and it was having trouble striking back at me. Before long I realized I was no longer holding my weapons, I was clawing at the things, and biting it, svagely trying to tear out chinks of its flesh with my teeth and fingers. But at the same time I was crying, some part of me deep inside was fighting to regain control, and failing. Who I was was dieing little bit by little bit everytime I lost control.
Had I been in a clearer state of mind I may have noticed that the creatures wounds closed almost immediatelly as they were inflicted. Mine however did not. Slowly I began to weaken, my blood mixed with the creatures. Still I fought ferociously, but I was the weaker combatant. I was only vaguely aware of the sounds of booted feet approaching, and only that sad part deep down noticed that someting struck me on the head. Only the part of me relieved to lose consciousness even registered my narrowing vision. And then I slept.
I was chained to a wall in a dark cell when I awoke. My arms were extremely sore, they had been supporting the full weight of my unconscious body. I transfered my weight to my feet and looked around me. I was in a prison cell, it was dark, and only some moonlight shown through a window above me and to the right. I could see caked blood on my hands and arms, and even on my legs. I could feel it on my face, and smell it. But worst of all I could taste it in my mouth, a foul tangy taste that made me sick. Even after vomiting several times I could taste it. I remembered the man, and his demons, and I remembered fighting the small one. I broke down into sobs, the tears running through the caked blood and dropping red off my face.
I dont know how long I hung there, crying, vomiting, praying, but eventually someone came. The small light filtering in through the window had changed from moonlight to bright sunlight. It was a younger man, just a few summers my elder. Maybe Eshrins age. He looked peaceful. His face was handsome and he had bright blue eyes shining under a mussed main of pale yellow hair. He was dressed in finery of bright yellows, reds and oranges, and on his chest his shirt bore an image of the sun rising over a small hill. He smiled warmly at me when he approached, "Good morning." I just stared up at him, what a mess I must have appeared. He motioned off to the side and seconds later men dressed in the armor and symbols of the town militia appeared with a plate of food, a pitcher of water, and a wash basin. They opened the cell and laid the dishes near me then left. It was a warn full meal, not the sort of gruel one would expect in a prison. When they had left the man came forward and began unlocking my manacles. "They thought you some evil creature. They were going to execute you last night. I can see no evil on you however, and I do have some sway here. Your friends vouched for you, as did some other important people." He stepped away from me, seemingly completely at ease and unafraid. I thought he should be, I was afraid of me. Free of my bonds I began massaging my aching arms, I could feel no wounds anywhere on me, it seemed someone had tended my wounds through magical means while I was unconscious. He motioned to the basin, "Clean up, eat. Your friends are waiting, we will leave when you are ready." He smiled and turned to leave, leaving the cell door open behind him.
After I had bathed, I asked for clean water twice for no matter how much I scrubbed myself I still smelt the blood, and though it wasnt really there anymore I was sure I could still see it, I ate. It was far from a delicious meal, every bite tasted of blood, and even the water seemed too thick to be water. I went outside and found all my companions waiting, fully provisioned and sitting by the horses talking. The man from my cell sat with them, he now had on bright pieces of a suit of armor, not the full suit, but enough to suggest he planned on riding through dangerous places. One of the horses bore the remainder of his suit. As I approached he looked up at me and stood, offering his hand out to me he said, "Well met Ms.Kehrsyn. I am Galen of Lathander." He smiled warmly and I shook his hand. My companions all smiled up at me as well, but on more than one face the smile was more sympathetic and sad than welcoming.
We mounted up and headed out of the town. I wasnt paying much attention to the direction we took, my visit to Shadowdale had been less wonderful than I had hoped for. I wished I had stayed behind, at the temple, with the people I loved, where I was safe. I trailed along behind the rest of the group and after a time Maeve fell behind as well to pace me. She glanced at me now and then but said nothing for quite some time. Finally she asked, "Are you ok?" Uncontrollable sobs took me and I nearly fell off my horse, "No..." I started a bit when she moved her horse close to mine and wrapped an arm around me, I expected people to run from and shun a monster, not comfort it.
The weather had improved a good deal since we had left Waterdeep and spring was in full force. It was warm and clear out. But I hardly noticed it. For some time I simply followed the group, paying no attention to my suuroundings or to the others. I didnt know what I could to do to stop myself from becoming what I was slowly and surely turning into. For the first time since the event I wondered who the man had been. He had known me and acted as though I should know him. He was no drow, and no other species I knew, not with those glowing eyes, that foul arua and his ability to speak directly into my head. He commanded those demons with him, that much was obvious. I determined he must be some powerful wizard, but I think even then I knew better. He had been too familiar to simply be some wizard who had discovered what I was and become interested in me. I sighed, I wasnt sent with this group to add to thier already sizable burden. I would have to accept what happened, and accept that it may happen again and move on. I truely would be that monster if I simply let the horror of what I was drive me. I would fight it as best I could, if I didnt I would fully lose myself, though my body would continue to live I would be dead. My eyes brimmed over with more tears as I thought that, I didnt want to be some horror killing and frightening others, and even more, I didnt want to die, at least not in that way.
I pulled out my flute and began to play while I rode, letting the horse simply follow the others. The instrument was my escape, it was my expression of my soul. My tune flowed out and I played the story of my life. From the wonderful times with my family at the temple to the dread and sadness in me as we rode. I played it all and I wept as I did, for it was my life and it had times both good and bad, but in the end it was one worth living, and I would do all I could to endure. I played for a long time, until I felt better, relieved, more sure. It was the song of the sea I had listened to so many years ago as I sat in the water and swayed with its music, and it washed away my fears and my doubts. When I finally stopped I realized my horse had stopped, and so had all my companions. They all looked at me with varying states of awe, even Maeve with all her musical talent. The expression Nolan had always given me had always been one sadness and pity, now it showed understanding and compassion. Tears rolled freely down Galens face. Tralin had a look of such wonder, "A lay even the master bards of elvenkind couldnt match. We shall call it 'The Soul of Whren.'" I felt an overwhelming wave of emotion coming on, and for the briefest moment I worried it was the monster, but it wasnt. It was relief and hope. My face broke into a smile and tears rolled down my face as I laughed. After a brief moment of confusion my companions began to laugh too, much to my amazement Nolan was the first to chuckle.
I felt somewhat renewed after that, what had happened and what could still happen was still there, in the back of my mind, but I didnt worry about it so much anymore. We were traveling north. Our first investigation was into a fortress of some sort in the High Ice. I had never heard of the place, nor had anyone else in the party except for Eshrin, who seemed to know quite a bit about the entire issue. Out of Shadowdale we went immediatelly north and slightly west, coming to the Black Road just on the western side of Dagger Falls, which we would take west through the Border Forest. Eshrin was uncomfortable with taking the Black Road but Galen assured us that the risk we ran with Zhentarim was far less than the risk of the fey who inhabited the forest and sticking to the road, which the Zhentarim routinely patroled, was the safest way through. I had thought fey were kindly creatures but Galen explained that those in the forest were far from friendly, they had become aggressive and confrontational due to the Zhentarim presence. I had imagined meeting fey, dryads, pixies, nymphs and the like, but if the ones there were truely prone to violence then, I decided, I would rather not.
The trip up to the Black Road was rather pleasant and uneventful. I wondered why we came to the road just to the west of Dagger Falls and not into the city itself. Eshir simply said there was no need to go there. When we entered the forest it seemed so dark and unwelcoming. I was on edge as we traveled through, fully expecting to be set upon by hordes of angry fey. The place seemed earie, quieter than the Reaching Wood had, and I recalled all to clearly what had happened there when the animals had become silent. Rhia had a small blue and white bird she was fond of, the very same one that had first greeted me in her cottage, which she chirped at frequently. It would fly ahead and after several moments return to chirp back at her. In this way we know that there was a caravan traveling towards us, and we were prepared to meet it.
At the edge of the wood, on the western side at last we moved to the left side of the path and the caravan moved to the right side but both our party and thiers stopped before passing eachother. Tralin dismounted to talk with them and one of thier number did as well. I wanted to go join them, after all hadnt my skill with things social been one of the reasons I had been chosen to come along? I knew nothing of the niceties of the road though and Tralin and Eshrin were the most well traveled and the most competent at such things so it seemed appropriate to let Tralin do the talking. I glanced around my group, all but Eshrin seemed well at ease. Nolan sat peacefully on his horse watching Tralin, Maeve appeared to be examining the caravan itself but there was no suspicion or nervousness on her face. Rhia and Galen chatted in whispers, they seemed well taken with eachother. Eshrin though, he was on edge, his head stayed facing Tralin as if watching the exchange but his eyes were all over. Peering into the forest around us, examining the people with the caravan, and I noticed his hand resting, seemingly casually, on the handle of his sword. I got nervous, if one of the most experienced members of our group thought something was wrong, then it was. The conversation lasted a good while, with Tralin becoming more animated and seemingly more agitated by the moment. Before long Rhia and Galens conversation had ended they, along with all the rest of us were focused on Tralin. At last he nodded and bowed to the man and returned to our group. His expression was deeply troubled, "They have very grave news from Evereska in the west. Theyll camp here tonight, rather than in the wood. Weve been invited to join them and hear what they know. I think we should." Eshrin looked like he was about to say something but before he could Tralin finish, "The other option is to take the night at the Zhent station not far ahead." He looked pointedly at Eshrin when he said it. We agreed to join the caravaners for the night. As we moved to join them and help with the setting of camp Galen moved near Eshrin and I heard him say quietly, "You are far too untrusting friend. I see no evil here." "You looked?" Galen gave a smile that was far too sad for the man, and it made me wonder, "I always look." Eshrins gaze lingered on Galen for some time as the paladin walked away.
The night was cool but the season had become much warmer since we had first left Waterdeep. The caravaners had circled thier wagons and we all sat inside that circle around a large warm fire. People talked, laughed and joked as we all gathered around the fire to prepare our evening meal. The caravaners shared thier own meal with us, allowing us to save some of our rations. While the meal was prepared I played my flute and Maeve played her lute and sang, others danced to the music and some sang along. The night had a pleasant beginning. Once the meal was ready we all ate, there was much joking and laughing. Looking around it all seemed so surreal to me. Happy smiling faces lit by a warm fire on a pleasant evening. This was what I had always imagined in my fantasies of travel and adventure, not what had come before, the terror of combat, the misery of what took me, but this, around the fire, with a warm meal and good friends.
After we had eaten the mood became far more somber. There was war in the west. Evereksa was under seige from some strange unknown creatures. They were powerful monsters and had pushed all the way to the city itself. I had read about the place and it seemed like a truely wonderful and beautiful place, that it was being ruined by war seemed a terrible loss. Tralin was quite distraught, that was where he was born and raised. The call for help had gone out but no one in the caravan knew if anyone would answer. But that wasnt all, a huge floating city had appeared over Anauroch. It seemed this cities appearance coincided with the appearance of the creatures attacking Evereska. The remained of the evening was far more somber, with discussions and speculation. I didnt sleep very well.
We said our goodbyes and gave our thanks to the caravaners early the next morning. Once we had parted ways with them we had choices to make. Evereska was under seige and needed every able bodied defender they could get, Tralin wanted very badly to go and do our part in the cities defense. Eshrin argued that our mission was more important, we had been given a task that could very well have a drastic impact on the future of the Realms. The debate was a heated one, with everyone taking one side or the other. I had only read about Evereska but I wanted badly for it to triumph, but at the same time the thought of war terrified me. I was no soldier, I would not live out a war, I knew that much, and I wondered what help the seven of us could be. In the end we decided to continue to the High Ice, and once sure that piece was safe and secured we would go to Evereska, if there was an Evereska left to go to. The artifact could not be utilized unless all of its parts were brought together, so long as one remained safe and secure it could not be used.
The pace we set was far more vigorous than we that we had set in the past. We were now in a much greater hurry than we had been at any other time. We traveled just slightly further west, to just near the edge of the desert. Skirting Anauroch we traveled north until we had pasted the norther boundaries of the Border Forest. From there we turned north west and into the desert. Reading of the desert is a far cry from the experience of it. All the talk of the heat does not begin to describe just how hot it can become, nor can words properly describe the sudden and very drastic fall in temperature once the sun has set. Our path only required on day in the desert but we entered in the early afternoon and had to take the night in it as well. Where it had been horribly hot during the day it became dreadfully cold during the night. We had all brought cold weather gear, even though I feel temperatures far less than others I took some as well, but even so there was some concern for our well being. Near midday the following day we entered the High Ice.
The place was a miserable one. It was cold like Ive never felt before. My breath puffed out in thick, white clouds and I thought I could feel my blood freezing in my veins. We had to climb. We had had to leave our horses behind when we scaled the glacier. None of us wanted to leave the poor creatures but there was no way to get them up the ice with us. Eshrin had assured us there was an oasis nearby where they would be fine, and Rhia cast a spell and said she told them about it and how to get there. I still worried for them though. Eshrin led us to what he believed was the easiest climb, but still it was difficult and dangerous. Tralin was able to cast spells on us to ensure were we to fall we would float slowly down rather than plunge to our doom. But because of carrying these particular spells he warned us that should we have to fight he would be of limited use. Nolan as well had used a good deal of his magic for the day on spells to protect us from the cold. When we finally reached the top I was sore in more places than I could count. I already hated the place, I longer for the slightly smaller misery that was the desert. Who would possibly make thier home up in this gods forsaken place?
We rested for a short while then began our trek across the ice. The ice stretched out far before us, as far as I could see was only white. The sun reflected brightly on the ice and snow and after a short time I lost most all depth in my vision. There was only a massive wall of blinding white ahead of me. When I closed my eyes bright after images colored the inside of my eyelids. I was considering the lack of landmarks and wondering how anyone could possibly reliably navigate this terrain when the ice near the center of our column erupted. I was hurled to the ground, landing hard on my rump. As I rose to my feet, drawing my daggers, I saw a huge creature that vaguely resembled a centipede. It was white, tinged with a pale blue. All around it the air was wavy, like it was generating a tremedous amount of heat. Quickly I looked around for my friends, like me they were all recovering from the initial suprise of the attack but they all appeared to be unharmed. I thought we should run, like we had from the dragon, but very quickly the absurdity of the notion hit me. Where would we run? And once seperated how would we find our bearings to regroup? No, running would have gaurunteed our deaths to the elements, we would have to fight.
The others appeared to have come to the same conclusion, they all were preparing for combat, weapons being drawn, songs starting to be sung, and chanting echoing off the ice. As I tried to find where to strike the creature to greatest effect two pale blue balls of energy slammed into the creature, which roared and rose up as it swiveled to face Tralin. Galen shouted out what sounded like a prayer and rushed to place himself between the creature and Tralin, weaving his large two handed sword defensively in front of himself, and he did not stop his prayer until the fighting was done. Nolans voice boomed out in prayer as well, and as he did I felt a sort of warmth fill me. Not a physical warmth, I was still chilled to the bone, but a warmth of the soul, and I felt a bit more confident in my choice of locations to strike the creature. Rhia let fly an arrow, which flew true and struck the creature solidly just under its head. The arrow burst into flame and was gone a second later, but blood leaked out of the wound it had caused.Eshrin charged in, not head on but just off to the creatures side slashing out at the monster and diving into a defensive roll past it as he did. His blade slashed the thing, but only shallowly. He came out of his roll in a run and was quickly out of the things reach but still it lunged in his direction. I had been waiting for an opportunity to move in and strike, but instead I called forth a cloud of darkness behind Eshrin but in front of the monster. The things head plunged into the cloud but quickly retreated, abandoning its attack on the man. Two more balls of energy pounded into the back of the creatures head then and it shrieked madly. As it struggled to turn its momentum back to the mage Galen lunged forward and plunged his blade squarely and deeply into its back. Then he screamed and let go his weapon and I could see steam rising off his hands. As he was stumbling away Rhia fired off two more arrows in quick succession, but only one struck. Like with her previous attack the arrow quickly burst into flame and was burnt to nothing. Eshrin used the cloud of darkness to his advantage and rushed in again, the monster couldnt see him coming but it could sense him by some other means because it swivelled its head to meet him. He used the same tactic he had in his initial assault, only this time he didnt escape the creature. His weapon slashed deep into the animals flank but it twisted when struck and wrenched the weapon from his hand and ruined his roll. He let out a painfilled yelp as the monsters head lunged down at him and its teeth sunk into his side. Once held in its grip the creatures body coiled and constricted around him with lightning speed. Then there was the smell of cooked meat. I ran forward and into the monster, leading with my blades. Both sank into its body and were pushed in all the way to the hand guards as my full weight slammed into the thing right behind the blades. I screamed, and could feel my skin blistering where it touched the flesh of the monster. Before it could react Nolans mace came down onto its skull and there was a sickening cruch of bone. The monster went limp.
Once we had extracted Eshrin from the embrace of the dead thing Nolan and Maeve set about tending our burns and Eshrins wounds as best they could. We had to leave the area quickly though, Eshrin was convinced the tussle would draw the attention of either more of the monsters or other creatures, or worse both. Nolan had always insisted on burying the corpses of anything we killed, he had buried the bandits while I was unconscious outside of Waterdeep and as many goblins and orcs as time permitted in the stonelands, but here there was no time, and aside from the large hole and the bowl melted into the ice from the animals body heat, there was only solid ice around us. Eshrin got his bearings, I dont know how, and we rushed off, not quite running but much faster than a walk. We traveled like this for hours and eventually I could make out the sillouette of some large structure up ahead. As we got closer I could see it was a massive manor house, and it appeared to be carved from thick ice. The walls were thick and white so I couldnt see into the building. We stopped in front of a huge door, also formed of ice, and on ice hinges. A thin rope dangled just off to the side of the door. Eshrin pulled it and there was a very deep sound of heavy bells ringing. The door swung slightly ajar and I could feel warmth from inside.
We stepped inside, and our mission began in earnest.
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